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You are here: LifestyleAkbar. The great Emperor of India

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Akbar. The great Emperor of India

Fondazione Roma Museo - Palazzo Sciarra

Written by (admin), Friday, October 19, 2012 7:34:27 PM

Last updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 7:24:58 PM

The Fondazione Roma presents to the public an exhibition devoted to the Emperor of India, Akbar (Umarkot, 1542 - Agra, 1605) one of the greatest sovereigns in history. This exhibition has never been held before in Italy and, due to the number of works and historical completeness, is unique in the world since it covers the Emperor's entire reign. The last exhibition on this theme was held in New York by the Asia Society in 1984-86, showing around eighty works relating to 1571-1585. The Exhibition entitled Akbar. The Great Emperor of India has been promoted by the Fondazione Roma and organised by Fondazione Roma-Arte-Musei with the Arthemesia Group and shall be held in the halls of the Museo Fondazione Roma, Palazzo Sciarra, from the 23rd October 2012 to the 3rd February 2013. The event is supported by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and has been accomplished through the involvement of the Italian Embassy in New Delhi and Indian Embassy in Rome. The Chairman of the Fondazione Roma says «This exhibition has a special meaning: Emperor Akbar is the greatest example of how culture may propel reciprocal understanding between different cultures and religions. As I have advocated the Fondazione Roma has always pursued this aim, also in the exhibitions held in its Museum such as, I would mention, the retrospective devoted the Emperor Qianlong and China in the Forbidden City, which was the first to have broadened our view to the East and its millenary civilizations. Emperor Akbar did not change India alone; he managed to establish intellectual progress, involving both the spiritual and worldly spheres of the people in his Country, throughout the world. The exhibition's rich and original layout does not intend to tell only the story of Akbar; visitors are prompted to reflect deeply on the concepts of tolerance, open-mindedness and understanding differences. Several Countries and Religions converge at a common point, marked by the awareness that to gain knowledge is not just a choice but a duty of human beings. This, in my opinion, is another task that art should perform and that the Fondazione Roma aims to accomplish through the numerous projects it has undertaken and supported in the field of culture».
Curated by Gian Carlo Calza, the exhibition presents a selection of works produced during the reign of Emperor Akbar, in order to illustrate the great historical transformations in an age full of political and social events and to portray the personality of a man who made a particular contribution to artistic, cultural and religious dialogue. Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar reigned from 1556 to 1605. He was the most important Mughal Emperor and became Akbar - meaning ‘The Great' - as a result of his military commitment and numerous conquests and also because of his administrative reforms and ability to make different religions live together and to spread culture, art and beauty throughout his realm. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Fondazione Roma-Arte-Musei has organised the film review Bollywood Film Meeting Roma which aims to offer a glance at the new trends which are becoming popular in cinema productions in the Hindi language of Mumbai. The review, created by Gian Carlo Calza and curated by Sabrina Ciolfi, Indologist and connoisseur of Indian films at the Università degli Studi in Milan, will be held in the Teatro Quirinetta.

The exhibition has a vast collection of works of art that aim to describe the classical India that circulates in the Western social imaginary - formed of Mughal Emperors, Rajas and Maharajahs - and was a destination for explorers, merchants and conquerors who arrived in that mysterious, rich and fascinating land from all over the world. Of Muslim lineage, the Mughal were founded by Babur, the first to have conquered India and descendant of Genghis Khan (1162?-1277) and Timur (1369-1450), who lived from 1483 to 1530 and reigned from 1526 until his death. When Babur died his sons, Kamran Mirza and Humayun, Akbar's father, divided the territories of his realm, though a civil war soon broke out and drove Humayun into exile in Persia. During his peregrinations, Akbar was born, in 1542, in the Rajput Fortress of Umerkot (now Pakistan) and had to be fostered by an uncle in Afghanistan. Since the future Emperor grew up hunting and fighting amidst soldiers he was not taught to read or write: though he remained illiterate throughout life, he still developed a taste for art, music, literature and architecture. In 1556, at only thirteen years old, Akbar succeeded his father who had recently reconquered the empire and, due to the military brilliance of Bairam Khan, a valiant and faithful General of the Mughal army, he conquered most of the sub-continent and took control of the realm at nineteen years of age. Thus a new age opened in India since the young warrior proved to be one of the most enlightened sovereigns in history. Akbar, a Muslim, rejected any form of religious extremism and aimed to integrate the various races and autochthonous religions with Islam; he invited eminent exponents of each creed to court and appointed them as ministers; abolished the traditional Jizya tax which all non-Muslims were required to pay and, wishing to form an alliance with the Rajputs - an ancient caste of Indian warriors - he married the daughter of Raja Bharmal, Hira Kunwari. He also abolished the idea of a State religion and introduced the principles of religious tolerance and equality which, in the entire history of humankind, are still exceptional. Driven by his religious tolerance, he attempted to create a syncretic religion that merged Islam and Hinduism; amongst many cities, Akbar also ordered the building of the capital Fatehpur Sikri, the City of Victory, where he lived for fourteen years (1571-1585); he developed and spread the arts which Humayun, his father, had imported from Persia and, together with several Persian painters, created a study with more than a hundred artists to execute sublime works, the style of which spread through all the provinces of his realm. The exhibition, Akbar. The Great Emperor of India, underlines his cultural and artistic, political and military achievements and profound religious spirit and exceptional broadmindedness.
Divided into five sections in order to render the best interpretation of the Emperor's works and historical-social environment, the exhibition evokes the fabulous splendour of the Mughal court through watercolours, paintings, book illustrations, extremely rare fragments of fabrics, carpets, objects and weapons studded with gems and introduces visitors to Akbar's internationalism and influence on Europe in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
FIRST SECTION - Court life, government and politics
The first section describes several times in the private and public life of the Emperor through works such as Akbar receiving gifts and The birth of Salim in 1569. Akbar's eldest son, Salim, was born from his marriage with Hira Kunwari and subsequently became Emperor Jahangir, Conqueror of the World. He was born in Fatehpur Sikri the new capital built by Akbar in thanks of the unexpected son. The bright colours of the clothes and the rituality of the usages and customs of the environment are splendidly conveyed in these works, where the architecture of the new realm forms the background of the precious tempera and watercolours on paper enriched with gold.
SECOND SECTION- Cities, town development and environment
The second section illustrates, through period depictions, the construction of the cities and progress in architecture and town planning. In paintings such as Akbar Inspecting the Construction of Fatehpur men and animals (including the large Indian elephants) are to be seen intent in building walls and palaces in Akbar's new style. Other pictures describing the previous Emperors' commitment to public works, as seen in Babur Supervising the Construction of a Reservoir on the Spring of Khwajah Sih Yaran, near Kabul, from the Baburnama (Biography of Babur), are also on show.
THIRD SECTION - Arts and handicrafts
This section exhibits handmade items for domestic use and exportation to the West, such as antique carpets and wedding blankets, jewel cases and refined chests inlaid with ivory, brass and mother of pearl which document the wealth and sophistication of Akbar's court. There are also works elegantly decorated with animals and Phytomorphic motifs, as in the Carpet with Bird Couples in a Landscape and the Fragment of a Carpet. Manuscripts, sculptures, Indo-Portuguese fabrics and decorative accessories from some of the chief Indian, European, North America and Arabian collections are also displayed.
FOURTH SECTION - War, battles and hunting
The fourth section contains works such as Babur Hunting Rhinoceros near Bigram (Peshawar) dated the 10th December 1526 and Akbar's Adventures with the Elephant Hawa'i which depict War, battles and hunting and the practice of using mighty elephants in great hunting expeditions, amongst which Hawa'i, often portrayed mounted by Akbar, that according to the legend was one of the strongest and most difficult elephants to handle, yet the great Emperor rode him with ease. Battle and parade weapons, often studded with gems of a heavy carat weight like the great hunting expeditions, or the Single edged curved sword, in damascened steel, wood and velvet, are also exhibited.
FIFTH SECTION - Religion and myth
The fifth section describes religion in those days, the relationship between different faiths - mainly Islam and Hinduism, though also Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity - and the sense of tolerance which Akbar spread widely. Mythological, sacred and literary illustrations are represented in works such as the tempera on paper entitled An angel conversing with a group of Europeans and a miniature of The churning of the ocean (from milk to butter), which portrays gods and demons striving to produce ambrosia, the nectar of immortality. The exhibition devoted to Akbar - which is in keeping with the cultural mission of the Fondazione Roma - illustrates how intercultural exchange, together with artistic, cultural and religious dialogue, contributes to great historical transformations, to which charismatic and outstanding personalities, like Akbar the Great, are fundamental.
On the eve of the celebrations of the centenary of Indian cinema, to be held in the Asian country in 2013, this event aims to offer a general glance at contemporary Bollywood proposing - as an expression of both mainstream and independent cinema - a selection of feature films produced in the last three years that particularly represent the various film genres of high artistic value which have been very successful amongst the public and critics. Traditionally known for predictable romantic plots, the large production houses of Bollywood are now experiencing a period of considerable development which has lead their directors to experiment different languages, themes and styles. At the same time, there has been an increase of independent films which have created new trends that are capable of attracting the interest of the most important international festivals. The review will be opened with the spectacular historical film on the life of the Emperor Akbar, Jodhaa-Akbar (2008) by Ashutosh Gowariker who also directed Lagaan (2001), Oscar nominee for the best foreign language film.

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